EU plans database of visa applicants' biometrics

By EDRi · January 12, 2005

The EU Commission plans to store biometric data taken from visa applicants in the planned Visa Information System (VIS). This was decided as part of a proposed regulation, which was already due in late 2004, but was delayed until 7 January 2005. The delay seems to be due to technical problems with stacking multiple RFIDs on documents. The upcoming Luxembourg Presidency of the Council wrote a note on these technical difficulties on 22 December 2004.

The note mentions in particular collision problems arising when several RFID tags would be included in one passport. As a possible solution concerning visas, the note proposes to store the biometric data only in the VIS and not on an RFID sticker, and says a majority of EU member states delegations seems to be in favour of this second solution. Concerning residence permits, the Luxembourg Presidency proposes to issue separate cards, with the biometric data on an RFID chip, as is currently planned also for EU citizens’ travel documents. This solution is, however, opposed by Germany, where residence permits are already being issued in the form of stickers.

According to current planning, the VIS is foreseen only for visa and asylum applications, not for residence permits. It will be closely linked to the Schengen Information System (SIS), which already holds a vast amount of data on would-be immigrants denied access to the EU.

EU Reporter: EU’s Big Brother Strikes Again! (10.1.2005)

Statewatch: EU: Biometric visa policy unworkable (05.1.2005)

Council of the European Union: Technical feasibility of the integration of biometric identifiers into the uniform format for visa and residence permits for third country nationals, passports and other travel documents issued by Member States, Document Nr. 14534/04 (11.11.2004)

Luxembourg Presidency of the EU Council: Integration of biometric identifiers into the uniform format for visa stickers and residence permits for third country nationals, Document Nr. 16257/04 (22.12.2004)

European Commission: Proposed Visa Information System (VIS) enhances security and facilitates travelling in EU (07.01.2005)

(Contribution by Andreas Dietl, EDRI EU Affairs Director)